All 3 of the U.S. military academies (West Point, Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy) have Rugby teams. Rugby first appeared in the 1830's at the Rugby School in England when a Soccer player, who (mid-game) got bored with the no scoring --- picked up the soccer ball and ran into the net, That got some attention from other bored fans and Rugby was born.


Rugby Basics Simplified

The philosophical point of the game is non-stop play sans scoring and ball out of bounds

·       15 players per side on the pitch (field) at a time

·       NO timeouts

·       NO 2-minute warning

·       NO blocking allowed

·       NO forward passes allowed

·       Each player on the pitch plays both ways i.e., NO Offensive players vs Defensive players

·       There are NO Specialists i.e., punters or kickers

·       The ball can be forwarded by running with the ball or by kicking the ball

·       Scoring:

o   3 pts --- Field Goal, drop kick through the posts, during play, from anywhere on the pitch

o   5 pts --- Try, touching the ball to the ground in the end zone

o   2 pts --- Kicking the ball (following a Try) from the ground

·       Scrum --- a method of restarting play

·       Line-Out --- a method of restarting play

·       Releasing the ball --- when a runner is tackled to the ground, the ball must be released

·       Mark --- called by a player catching a kick while he does not run with it (fair catch)

·       Ruck --- players on their feet, around the ball on the ground; fighting for the ball with their feet 

·       Maul --- when a player with the ball is held up by one of more opponents 


Much later in America, Rugby became the genus for American Football when an American citizen (from England), who did not really understand Rugby rules, started American Football. The Scrum became the offensive and defensive lines, the Scrum Half became the Quarterback, and the backs became the defensive backs and offensive running backs.


At its’ inception, American Football players played both ways (offense and defense). In a later American Football game, a player threw a forward pass and the referee (at the time) did not know (in Rugby) that that was illegal --- thereafter the forward pass in American Football became legal.


Rugby Teams have 15 players per team --- 8 in the Scrum (aka Scrummies or Forwards) & 7 Backs. There is a version called "7's which have 3 in the Scrum and 4 Backs. Both versions play on the same field & follow the same rules. Regular Rugby games play two 40-minute halves; 7's games play two 7-minute halves. There are no time-outs.


In any Rugby game, the ball can only be legally moved forward by a player:

  • running with the ball
  • kicking the ball forward


[NOTE: a forward pass is not legal; however more and more in today's Rugby, players are finding ways to advance the ball by pop kicking it such that it acts like a forward pass to an outside running back --- or they run under it themselves --- or a teammate runs under it and catches it on the fly. The only rule here is that said teammate must be behind the teammate who kicks the ball.]


Rugby is intended to be as non-stop as possible. It would never stop, other than scoring or ball out of bounds, if players never broke the rules. Enough said. Interestingly enough, the clock does not stop after a score or when the ball goes out of bounds. The clock only stops at half-time, or if the referee stops it. Stopping play does NOT stop the clock.


Scoring occurs by:

  • drop-kicking the ball through the goal posts during play (3 pts)
  • touching the ball to the ground in the opponents Try Zone (5 pts)
  • touching the ball to either goal post at the front edge of the Try Zone (5 pts)
  • penalty try awarded by referee when a try is prevented illegally (5 pts)
  • kicking the ball through the goal post after a Try (2 pts) --- the nuance here is the ball must be kicked from a line as far away from the Try Zone as the kicker chooses, yet perpendicular to where it was first touched down in the Try Zone (End Zone)


Note: if a player(s) on defense gets his/her body under an opposing player with the ball, preventing the ball from touching the ground in the Try Zone, there is no score and a Scrum is called on the 5-yard line (throw-in is awarded to the attacking side Scrum Half).


In a Rugby game, while the clock usually does NOT stop, the play does stop when 1 of 2 things happen: the ball goes out of bounds –or-- the Referee stops play (usually for a penalty). Restarting play during a game happens in 1 of 2 ways: A Scrum or a Line-Out.  


The following position descriptions are for 15-a-side, which is the most common:

Scrum is how to restart the game after a penalty. The 8-person Scrum (called Scrummies or Forwards) form a triangle, in a crouched position, and who, while in a Scrum, physically oppose the opposition's Scrum. The Referee controls when the 2 scrums come together. 


A Scrum consists of 8 players facing 8 opposing players --- they start by standing a couple feet apart; then crouching with the opposing Front Rows making contact shoulder to shoulder, on command of the referee. 

·         3 Forwards in front aka Front Row (2 Props & a Hooker --- 1 Prop on either side of the Hooker) who bind together with their arms over each other's shoulders/backs 

·         Behind the Front Row are the two 2nd Row players (usually the tallest) who also bind together with their arms over each other’s shoulders --- put their head between the hips of the Front Row so as to push with their shoulders

·         2 Flankers --- one on each side of the scrum who bind to their adjacent 2nd Row and push with one of their shoulders on the Prop in front of them

·         The Lock is behind the 2nd row --- put his/her head between the hips of the two 2nd Row --- grasping their hips with his arms and pushes with both shoulders


Then the Scrum Half (from the team awarded the ball by the Referee), rolls the ball on the ground in between the two crouched Scrums. The Scrummies must stay together in their triangular form (until the ball comes out) --- they fight for the ball with their feet, but it is the Hooker’s job to first contact the back and move it back inside the Scrum. Any Scrummy can pick the ball up when it gets to the back of the Scrum, but usually the Scrum Half takes it and laterals to the Fly-Half. 


There are 7 backs:

·         Scrum Half (who is like the Quarterback) handles the ball the most

·         4 backs on the strong side (Fly Half, Inside Centre, Outside Centre, and the strong Wing) who stand on a slanted line that fades diagonally back from the Scrum to the boundary --- the point being that the only legal passes are laterals i.e., always traveling backwards

·         1 back on the weak side (Weak Wing)

·         1 Full back, who acts like a Safety, who stands behind all the backs


Line-Out is another means to restart the game when the ball goes out of bounds. In that case a player from the team that was awarded the ball by the referee, stands just outside the sideline and throws the ball (like a pass) between the 2 lines of Scrummies, one team on one side: the other team on the other side, who each stand in a line, 2' apart, perpendicular to the sideline. The Scrummies jump for the passed ball and whichever team gets it, starts their offense.


The Scrum Half stands ready to catch the ball if his/her team wins the Line-Out; with 4 backs stretched out on the strong side, one winger on the weak side and the full back behind them all.


In some countries, there are Rugby Clubs aka RFCs (Rugby Football Clubs). In England, and probably in other countries, many RFCs own their field(s) which commonly has a club house with locker/shower facilities and a lounge with a bar, on the property. A RFC may have several teams and their players may, from time to time, get selected to play in International games on Select Teams.


The 7's players are usually the most athletic of their affiliated 15's team(s); those with quicker reaction times and tackling skills are much more important since there are fewer players on the field. If you know American Football, 7's players would most likely come from the likes of Linebackers, Defensive Backs, Tight Ends & Running Backs.  



The Referee rules on "advantage" --- if a team commits a penalty, the Referee will NOT stop play if the opposing team gains an advantage.  If the opposing side does not gain an advantage from said penalty, the Referee later (up to a point) stops play and brings both teams back to the point where the penalty occurred to have a scrum with the ball being put in by the opposing teams Scrum Half. 



A Mark is like a "fair catch" in American Football whereas the opposing player, who is catching a kick indicates that he will be claiming a Mark, which (when caught) stops play, is allowed to kick the ball however s/he chooses.



The game does not stop for an injured player unless the Referee determines that the injured player is in the way of play and stops play. Medical help will come on to the field to assist an injured player during play and play does not stop unless again the Referee stops it.


Rugby Basics, More about

 ·       There is a kickoff:

o   To start the game

o   After every score to restart play

o   After half time

·       Each player on the pitch plays both ways

·       There are two 40-minute halves

·       There are 3 referees: 1 on the field and 1 on each sideline

·      Scoring:

       o   3 pts --- Field Goal, drop kicking the ball through the posts, during play, from anywhere on the pitch

o   5 pts --- Try, which is when a player touches the ball to the ground in the end zone (called the "In Goal” in Rugby terminology)

o   5 pts --- Penalty Try, when the referee determines a player was illegally prevented from scoring

o   2 pts --- Kicking the ball (following a Try) from the ground; ball placed on a line perpendicular to the goal line from the place where the ball was touched down in the end zone

·       Releasing the ball --- when a runner is tackled to the ground, the ball must be released

·      Ruck --- when players from both teams, while on their feet, close around the ball and are fighting for the ball with their feet.

o   Open play has ended

o   normally happens after a runner is tackled and his/her teammates swarm around him/her

o   At least one player from each team must be in contact with each other

o   The ball must be on the ground

o   A player in a ruck must keep their heads & shoulders above their hips

o   A player joining the ruck must come from behind the ruck

o   A player joining the ruck must bind to a teammate by putting an arm over that teammate’s shoulders or around that teammate’s waist

·       Maul --- when a player with the ball is held up by one of more opponents and one or more of the ball carrier’s teammates bind to the ball carrier.

o   Requires a minimum of 3 players

o   Open play has ended

o   A player in a maul must keep their heads & shoulders above their hips

o   A player joining the maul must come from behind the ruck

o   A player joining the ruck must bind to a teammate by putting an arm over that teammate’s shoulders or around that teammate’s waist

o   A player must not intentionally collapse the maul

o   A player may not jump on top of the maul

o   A player may not drag an opponent away from the maul


Some other points that will help you understand Rugby:

- Rugby players are not as pretty as Soccer players; Rugby players are always tougher & stronger; which is which is seldom confused

- Rugby Players wear no heavy duty padding or no hard helmets --- like American Football players wear

- This (above) is an answer to how do we reduce CTE in American Football --- no helmets 

Any player can run or kick the ball

A Rugby field size is a little larger than an American football field

- Each player stays on the field for the entire game unless hurt or substituted out

- There are two 40-minute halves

- The Referee is the one and only official time keeper

- The half ends and the game ends when the Referee says so 

The clock does NOT stop when there is a scrum, when the ball goes out of bounds, after a score or, in some cases, when a player is injured

- The clock stops when the referee stops it; only the Referee can stop the clock

The Kick after Try must be kicked on any point that is on a line that is perpendicular to the point where the ball was touched down in the In-Goal area (aka End Zone)

- If the player with the ball crosses into the In-Goal area but is held up such that s/he cannot touch the ball to the ground; the referee will blow the whistle to stop play and call a scrum at the 5 yard line awarding the throw-in to the team that last had the ball

If play is stopped by the referee, it may be restarted by a Penalty Kick (PK) or a Scrum

- If the ball goes out of bounds, the game is restarted by a Line-out (the clock does not stop)

- A penalty is called if a runner with the ball, when tackled and is on the ground, does not release the ball

- An off-sides penalty occurs when a player on one team is in front of a teammate who kicks the ball and cannot get involved in the game until the kicker of the ball, or a teammate was behind the kicker, gets in front of the kicker

- Any rugby player must be able to tackle

- A Scrum consists of 8 players, who are called "Scrummies" or "Forwards",  (1 Hooker, 2 Props, two 2nd Row, 2 Flankers and 1 Lock (aka #8)

- There are 6 Running Backs in regular Rugby (one Fly-Half, two Centers, two Wingers and one Fullback)

- The main ball handler in regular Rugby, or Seven's, is the Scum Half (aka #9)

- In 7-a-side's, there is a 3-person Scrum , 3 Running Backs and a Scrum Half

- There is one main on-the-field Referee and two side referees (who run the sidelines); all 3 are involved in officiating the game. 

- In big games, if setup, there is a TV booth with cameras capable of showing replays

- The main Referee may, after stopping play, call on the TV booth to resolve any debatable play

- The one and only main on-the-field Referee is the only authority on the field; what s/he says, is what goes

- The one in-the-field-of-play Referee may consult with either of the two side Referees

- A Yellow card is for a bad infraction; the player carded is sent off the field for 10 minutes (in Seven's  it is 2 minutes)

- A Red card is for a very bad infraction; the player carded is out of that game and may not play in the next game for his/her team

- Rugby is played in 103 countries on this planet

- Major League Rugby (MLR) brought professional Rugby to the U.S. for the first time in 2018

- There are international Rugby games; the big one is the Rugby World Cup

- International games are between countries

- For International games, each country can use any Rugby player who is a citizen of their country

- USA Rugby fields the USA Eagles to represent the U.S. in international games

- The USA Eagles use players from any other Rugby organization in the U.S. including the MLR

- The top Rugby teams on the planet have been the All-Blacks (New Zealand), the Springboks (South Africa) and the Fiji National team

- The most important Rugby game on the planet is the Rugby World Cup which is played once every 4 years


Professional (paid players) in the U.S. & Canada play in the somewhat new organization called "Major League Rugby (MLR)". It consists of 9 teams (8 U.S. & 1 Canada). They have announced that 3 more teams (New England, Atlanta & Wash DC) will join the MLR in 2020. The local team is the Seattle Seawolves who are the defending 2018 MLR Champions.


Other versions of Rugby

It appears that there are only 2 other versions:


  •       Rugby League
  •        Australian Rules Rugby


Not enough is known about them, to write about them --- other than they are not as popular as regular Rugby --- both 15-a-side and 7-a-side. The 7-a-side regular version is what was in the Olympics which sheds some light on which is more dominant.



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